Merrimack’s Gasper powers way to Yankee promotion

Courtesy photo Mickey Gasper's power stroke is one of the main reasons the Yankees promoted the former Merrimack standout to their Charleston, S.C. long season Cllass A team Monday night.

It can be a test of nerves when the word is the coach wants to see you.

Good news or bad news?

For Merrimack’s Mickey Gasper, the smiles gave it away after he played Monday night in a game for the Pulaski (Va.) Yankees, New York’s Advanced Rookie team in the Appalachian League

“The video guy told me (manager) Nick Ortiz wanted to see me in his office,” Gasper said. “I said to the guy, ‘Is it good or bad’? He just smiled.”

The news was good, as Gasper has been promoted to the Yankees’ long season Single A team, the Charleston, S.C. RiverDogs.

Why? Power, for one. Gasper, plucked by the Yankees in the 27th round of this past June’s Major League Amateur Draft, hit eight homers in 37 games, while hitting .240 with four doubles, 24 RBIs, as slugging percentage of .471 and an OPS of .855.

“It’s an every day grind,” said Gasper, the former Merrimack High School catching standout who excelled at Bryant College as well as in a season with the Nashua Silver Knights when he was the Futures League Player of the Year in 2016. “You can’t get too high, you can’t get too low. There’s always tomorrow; after a good game or a bad game, you’ve got to put it behind you and be ready for the next day.”

That attitude has apparently worked for Gasper, who has played some at first base but not at catcher, which was his position in college. He says he worked extensively with Pulaski hitting coach Francisco Leandro on his swing and taken tutelage from Ortiz as well. “Just trying to fine tune my swing,” he said. “Francisco Leandro has been working to help me improve my mechanics at the plate.”

The whole professional baseball experience has been a whirlwind, for certain. Gasper said it made it easier somewhat to have former Silver Knight infielder and friend Max Burt on the Pulaski roster as well. He knows a couple of current RiverDogs from college ball as well.

“The coaching staff at Pulaski was great,” Gasper said. “I learned a lot. It really helped me get more confident in myself every day.”

But Gasper at first wasn’t playing every day, but then made the most of his chance. He said his attitude never changed.

“It’s hard not playing every day, playing every third or fourth day,” he said. “But the key is to stay focused either way, every day. And when I started playing every day, that’s when I hit my stride.”

Gasper said the competition is the best he’s seen, but that was no surprise.

“The competition is what I expected it to be,” he said. “I haven’t seen anybody I didn’t think should be on the field. Every day you’re facing elite guys.”

Especially on the mound.

“The pitching, I’ve seen a lot of guys with three-plus pitches,instead of the usual two,” Gasper said. “And three good ones. A lot more of these guys know what to do.”

Remember, Gasper’s main position throughout his career has been catcher, but he isn’t listed by the Yankee organization as one and played, as he said, some first base at Pulaski.

“I’m open to playing anywhere,” Gasper said. “I’ll do anything to keep myself in the lineup. Wherever they put me. I’ll play the outfield, left, right, whatever. I did shag some balls a lot this summer. I just want to be out there.”

Gasper hears things are good with Charleston. Ortiz had a big smile when he told him of his promotion on Monday night, and told him to keep doing what he’s been doing.

That’s easy to do when you’re in baseball heaven.

“I am,” Gasper said. “It’s truly a blessing. I couldn’t be happier. But this is just the beginning.”